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Rules relaxed on recruiting overseas nurses

RCN cautions that change risks damaging health and care systems of developing countries
Picture shows nurses recruited from overseas working at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

RCN cautions that change risks damaging health and care systems of developing countries

The UK has expanded the number of countries NHS employers can recruit nurses from by more than 100, by relaxing its ethical recruitment rules.

The move could help meet the government target of recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024, but the RCN warned against changing the rules for political reasons, saying it risks damaging the health and care systems of developing countries.

Government pledges to promote ethical recruitment

Helen Whatley

The change to the UKs ethical international recruitment strategy reduces

RCN cautions that change risks damaging health and care systems of developing countries

Picture shows nurses recruited from overseas working at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
Nurses recruited from overseas to work at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust Picture: Neil O’Connor

The UK has expanded the number of countries NHS employers can recruit nurses from by more than 100, by relaxing its ethical recruitment rules.

The move could help meet the government target of recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024, but the RCN warned against changing the rules for political reasons, saying it risks damaging the health and care systems of developing countries.

Government pledges to promote ethical recruitment

Minister for care Helen Whatley
Helen Whatley

The change to the UK’s ethical international recruitment strategy reduces the list of ‘red’ countries, from which the NHS cannot recruit nurses, from 152 to 47. This will help the government achieve its election promise of having 50,000 more nurses working in the NHS in England by the end of the current parliament in 2024, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Minister for care Helen Whatley said she looked forward to welcoming more overseas staff under the new rules. ‘We will work with countries all over the world to promote the best standards of ethical recruitment of health and social care staff, and I look forward to welcoming more incredible talent to the UK,’ she said.

‘Alongside our ambition to increase the number of UK-based nurses, this will allow us to continue to deliver world-class care to patients for years to come.’

RCN says international nurse recruitment must remain fair

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said international nursing recruitment must remain transparent and fair, and cautioned against changing the rules for political reasons.

‘The government cannot resort to unfair recruitment practices to meet this political goal,’ she said. ‘This would damage the UK’s reputation abroad, and more importantly, the health and care systems of developing countries already hit hard by COVID-19.’

The 47 countries still on the UK’s red list are aligned with the World Health Organization’s Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List. This list, like the UK’s, is designed to protect countries with critical shortages of health workers from targeted recruitment by richer nations.

According to Nursing and Midwifery Council data, 2,518 people who had trained as nurses or midwives overseas joined the register for the first time between April and October 2020.


Find out more

Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health and Social Care Personnel in England (DHSC)


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